Hates Math

Question:

I homeschool my three girls. My oldest is 9 and works 2 grades ahead, and works independently. My middle child, 7, is advanced and just as intelligent. She absolutely hates sitting and doing worksheets, especially in Math. I am getting extremely frustrated and this in turn frustrates her. Neither of us is happy. She loves to sing, listen to music and work on the computer. Help!

Answer:

How blessed you are to have three little girls! It must feel like Little Women at your house.

God sends these children to us with such diversity of personality. It is really up to us as mothers to study out our children’s temperaments and dispositions and figure out how to reach them individually. Each child has a natural curiosity, love of learning, inborn talents and interests. It is our joyful task to arrange their environment so they can retain that enthusiasm while learning the skills they will need to contribute as an adult. We don’t want to drum the love to learning out of them with an approach to learning that they find dull. Learning is fun! If your daughter (and you) find it tiresome, then it is time to re-evaluate your methods. Some children (not many) enjoy workbooks, and they are self-directed learners that make homeschooling very easy! Other children need time, plus the resources and supplies, to pursue what they find interesting (that is educational and wholesome), plus some directed learning by mom that makes the unpleasant subject as fun as possible.

My daughter Louisa (at age 12) did not like doing math in a textbook format either. In fact, as long as I try to make her learn math through her textbook, she “hates math”. So, I studied out what she enjoys and tried to apply her interests. She enjoys art a lot, and interaction with me, rather than quiet sitting studying. So, here is how we do her math facts practice: I sit at the table and she stands (her enthusiasm makes sitting impossible!)  We play a math game called “Got It” . We turn over two cards with single digit numbers on them, and we race to multiply the numbers on the cards and say the answer. To make the game more fair, I tap my hand down on the table twice before I shout the answer, to give her some thinking time. (She may shout it out just as soon as she is able!) She loves the suspense and delights when she can beat me to the answer! This takes us about 10 minutes every morning. Louisa would be glad if I would play it with her for an hour (!) and she is quickly getting quite proficient on her times tables. We used to do multiplication facts worksheets, which were dreary to her. We are reaching the same goal, getting the same results–the multiplication facts learned. The method, though, makes the difference between a happy encounter between us, or a dull exercise.

To teach the math lesson, I use either a chalkboard and colored chalk, or a stack of scratch paper and some colorful markers. I scan the concept in the Saxon book and draw out as much as I can in picture form. If I can use real objects to teach the lesson, I do it. I have her draw out as much as possible to help her visualize the problem. I teach the concept, talking it through with pictures and then we do just one problem on each piece of scratch paper, drawing the numbers colorfully and big. When the lesson is on something concrete, such as weight measurements, I get out a food scale and some different items to weigh and we just do a hands-on lesson. (Did you know that 1 grape weighs 10 grams?)  I learn something too! I pose all sorts of questions (how much do you think a dollar bill would weigh: an ounce or a gram) and she does the hands-on work to find the answers. Once I feel sure she has mastered the concept, I review a few concepts from the previous lessons, and feel confident that we have done enough math. And she does retain those concepts so much better than if she had done the whole Saxon lesson!

You will be surprised to find that your other daughters pick up on the concepts too, even if they are not the “right age” for the lesson!

If your daughter enjoys singing, music and computer; teaching math could be really fun! I can think right off of several math resources that would be delightful: math facts set to music as  Multiplication Songs CD, computer games such as Quarter Mile Math that drill math facts, and other computer games that teach math lessons. Math Wrap-ups are a creative way to practice math facts. There is also a great series of math books for the creative child, called Life of Fred.  Try a few ideas, and see which she takes to the best. I do think it is necessary to ensure children learn math skills, but please do all you possibly can to make it fun.

Think of Mary Poppins! A spoonful of sugar does make the medicine go down!

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